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Positive Economic Reports Boost US Stocks; Dollar Slightly Higher - 2003-12-18

U.S. equities closed at their highest level in 19 months Thursday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed the 10,200 level. The dollar rebounded slightly from its record low against the euro.

Stock prices continued their rise on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones industrials gaining over 100 points to its highest close in 19 months. Technology stocks were also up sharply on the NASDAQ. Analysts say investors were encouraged by economic reports showing strength in the industrial sector and a slackening pace of first time claims for unemployment benefits. The U.S. economy is projected to be currently growing at a four percent annual rate.

In another good sign for the U.S. economy, the index of leading economic indicators rose a solid 0.3 percent in November. The index is seen as a barometer of economic activity three to six months in the future. The Conference Board reports that the October advance in the index was revised upward to 0.5 percent.

While oil prices and gold were marginally higher, the dollar rebounded somewhat from the string of lows it has touched against the euro, the currency of 12 European Union countries. After touching a low of above $1.24 cents in New York Thursday, the dollar recovered in later trading to $1.23 and 3/4 cents. The euro has risen nearly 20 percent against the dollar this year.

The dollar closed at just under 108 Japanese yen. Gold traded at $411 an ounce. Oil in New York traded at just under $34 a barrel.